Gareth Bale marked his Tottenham Hotspur return with the final goal in a 3-1 home win over Manchester City yesterday that revived Spurs’ top-four challenge and effectively ended City’s title defence.
City had taken the lead through Samir Nasri in the fifth minute but Spurs staged a remarkable late comeback through goals from Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and Bale, who had missed the last two games through injury.
Tottenham remain in fifth place, but are just two points behind third-placed Arsenal with a game in hand. Defeat for City, meanwhile, means Manchester United will reclaim the title from their near neighbours if they beat Aston Villa at Old Trafford today.
This win will provide a major boost for Tottenham, whose bid for a Champions League place had taken a turn for the worse since victory over Arsenal in the north London derby last month had cemented their hold on third place and moved them to within two points of City.
That gap had increased to 10 points ahead of yesterday’s game and, more importantly, Andre Villas-Boas’ side had dropped out of the top four. Little wonder, then, that the return of Bale was greeted enthusiastically, after the Wales international missed two games with an ankle injury sustained in the Europa League quarter-final against Basel.
Bale wasted little time making his presence felt, quickly firing in a 35-yard effort that brought City goalkeeper Joe Hart into the action. But any optimism generated by Bale’s early contribution soon disappeared when Nasri put the visitors ahead after just five minutes.
The equaliser came in the 75th minute when Bale played a superb cross with the outside of his left boot across the face of the City goal, where Dempsey finished from close range.
Spurs were lifted and, inexplicably, City fell apart. Four minutes after the leveller, Defoe finished superbly, curling a shot beyond Hart after collecting Holtby’s through ball. The atmosphere had been completely transformed and Bale capped an impressive recovery by clipping the ball over an advancing.